By KIRK HARDCASTLE
NIACC sports information director
MASON CITY – Dan Gratz has been hired as the new NIACC softball coach.
Gratz was the Director of Softball Operations at the University of Iowa before accepting his new position at NIACC.
"I'm excited to get back into the coaching aspect after being a director for a year," Gratz said. "This team has the ability to be really solid and compete in this conference, which is one of the best conferences in the country in softball."
Gratz, who also will be an Industrial and Agriculture academic advisor at NIACC, replaces Christi Weiser, who stepped down as coach of the Lady Trojans after three seasons (2015-17).
Prior to being at the University of Iowa, Gratz was an assistant softball coach at John Wood Community College in 2016 and was the head softball coach at Cedar Rapids Kennedy from 2014-2016.
Gratz was 92-32 in three seasons at Kennedy and was the Class 5A coach of the year in 2016. Kennedy was 27-14 in 2014, 28-13 in 2015 and 37-5 in 2016.
Gratz said he's excited to get back on the field as a coach.
"I love the interaction with the players and helping them grow," he said. "I love to help them learn. It is fun to see them get better and see those things click. It is fun to be a part of that."
Gratz said he learned a lot in his year at Iowa as the Director of Softball Operations.
"I learned how to scout, put together game plans and look at teams to figure out how to knock them off.
"I learned to see the game in a different way. I learned to a lot of little things that will help me to polish up the things that I like to do."
Gratz said his main recruiting area will be Iowa and also plans to recruit in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Softball in Iowa period is great," Gratz said. "The high schools are solid and from the junior college to the Division IIIs to the four DIs – it's a solid across the board."
Gratz said he's looking forward to competing in the ICCAC.
"It's so balanced," he said. "There's going to be competition every single day just like when I was at Kennedy in Class 5A. I'm excited to get back into that."
Gratz, who wrestled at Cornell College, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell College in 2012 and received a Master's in Business degree from Hannibal-LaGrange University in 2016.
Gratz, who wrestled and played baseball in high school, started following the game of softball when his sister started playing.
"There's a lot of similarities with baseball but it's so different," he said. "Softball is a much quicker and more intense version of that game."